Outsourcing MSP (managed service provider) help desk support can be a great game-changing solution! But if you do it incorrectly, it can create more headaches than you would have expected. In this article, we will take a deep dive into the reasons not to outsource your MSP help desk, as well as give you some ideas on how to do it in a better way.

The main reasons outsourced help desk support can go wrong are:

  • A lack of dedicated resources
  • Differences in work culture between an MSP and the outsourcer
  • Difference in dialects and communication styles
  • Awkward office dynamics like power distance and saving face
  • A lack of cultural diversity, connection and global awareness
  • A focus on growth at the expense of quality
  • Not establishing procedural structure
  • Having little to no documentation structure 
  • Hiring is limited by resumes 
  • Failing the beer test

What Are the Main Cons of an Outsourced Help Desk?

We at Support Adventure have extensive experience with remote staffing for over 50 MSPs, as well as consulting them on how to improve their help desk operations. So we know the industry inside-out and can make some suggestions if you are considering outsourcing your help desk. 

In fact, many of our long term clients actually came to us after having a previously bad outsourcing experience. If your MSP wants to work with an outsourcing provider, we know many things to watch out for to prevent this from happening to you too.

Here are the red flags that make outsourcing a bad idea. 

An Outsourced MSP Help Desks Lacks Dedicated Resources

Many outsourced help desk solutions provide a generic service with no interest in having a deep understanding of their clients and the systems their clients use. This can be a big problem for you, the MSP. 

Imagine, you’ve worked hard for years to build relationships with your clients, and then one of them gets transferred to an employee of your outsourcing provider. The outsourced employee responding to your client has no rapport with them and no knowledge of the systems your company and clients are using. 

This general and mediocre approach doesn’t fit the relationship that you’ve built with your clients, and so they receive an inconsistent service every time they call the help desk.

We are sure you want to prevent this scenario from happening. In order to do so, we recommend getting dedicated resources, which we just happen to offer! This makes it so that a help desk outsourcing solution will get to know you, your clients, and their needs on a very close level. 

This way, firms can provide an excellent level of service based on familiarity. Dedicated outsourcing resources who will assimilate to your environment, unlike generic call center people.

The worst thing is to have these call center agents that are answering the phone for countless amounts of MSPs all day long. The service they provide won’t be on the same level that you would expect.  

An Outsourcing Company’s Work Culture Differences Can Harm your MSP Help Desk

The second disadvantage of MSP help desk outsourcing is when there’s a significant difference in work culture between the outsourcer and their client. 

The reason why the word ‘outsourcing’ sometimes gets a bad rap in the business world is due to the differences in work culture and communication styles between different companies. We can see the biggest difference here between developed and developing countries. 

People from developing countries think about work in a very different way than people in prosperous western countries. For example, in Canada, where our founder Eric Muth is from,  people feel much more invested in the company where they work. They’re empowered to contribute their own ideas and individuality to their employer.

 In most developing countries however, the work culture is very hierarchic and people follow rigid orders and rules. An employee isn’t an individual within the organization,  but a part of a collective.

Thus, people in the west usually take ownership of issues, using their intelligence and thoughts to find innovative solutions to solve problems. And the use of innovative solutions is especially important in the MSP space.

People who are just following orders or reading scripts aren’t using their own brains to understand systems. They aren’t very valuable employees for the company in terms of self accountability. 

We also see differences in the way staff interact with management. If you want employees who will just take orders, then developing countries can be a good solution for help desk outsourcing. 

But even at that, you may think an order you’ve delivered is common sense, when it actually  might not be common sense in the context of a culture gap. This can be very problematic when your help desk doesn’t have the same common sense as the outsourcing team. 

And you would be surprised how many MSPs who come to us after having a failed first attempt at outsourcing cite this as the reason for exiting their previous outsourcing contract.

Interestingly enough, this issue can also arise between companies in the same country, so cultural differences don’t always have to be location-dependent. 

Difference in Dialects and Communication Styles in an Outsourced MSP Help Desk

The next problem that can arise from using an outsourced MSP help desk comes from  differences in communication and dialects. Many MSPs refer to us because we hire international people who are either native English speakers, or have similar communication skills to natives.

In the end, it’s crucial how your employees communicate and share key information. We have found that people communicate much more casually in the US, UK, Canada and Australia.  Hence, a help desk representative will be talking to a client almost like a friend. 

This becomes tricky when international outsourcing companies hire people in places like India and the Philippines. Yes, many locals speak English in those countries, but their communication style is very different from that of the western world. 

It’s not as casual. Moreover, most of these countries have strong dialects, which makes it difficult to have as relatable a conversation as you would with someone in your country. 

This is such a big problem that many MSPs who outsource internationally end up not assigning customer service tasks to techs in developing countries. 

So while you can find appropriate candidates at lower costs, these people might lack cultural compatibility with people in the US, UK, and Canada.

Our company selects people based on their communication skills–written and verbal. We have a pool of great talent available to hire at affordable rates because many of them are from South Africa. The English and skill level is great there, but technicians depend on foreign job opportunities to have a reliable standard of living. So it’s a win-win for everyone!

The Problem of Power Distance and Saving Face

Outsourcing services must understand the factor of power distance, which is when some people are perceived as having more authority than others. If power distance exists within a company’s  culture, employees with lower positions will be too intimidated to raise an issue with someone above them. In most western countries, power distance is not as intense as it is  in developing countries where employees must use submissive formalities like “sir” or “ma’am.” 

In countries with low power distance, workers feel more encouraged to express themselves freely and speak their mind to senior team members. When it comes to navigating this issue with outsourcing, MSP owners need to decide the following: 

  • What type of employees you need 
  • What type of relationship you want them to have with clients and the internal management structure
  • What level of truthfulness you want them to have 

There’s also the cultural element of saving face that exists in many countries. It’s when people try to say or do something to preserve their reputation and maintain respect. 

An example of this would be if you visit a pharmacy in Thailand or India. Let’s say you ask them if they carry a particular medicine, and they don’t know of the medicine. But instead of simply saying that, they would rather say that they don’t have it. 

The reason for such behavior is that people can fear being perceived as having little knowledge or lacking intelligence.  In North America or Europe people just acknowledge their lack of knowledge and are eager to learn what they don’t know.  

An Outsourced Help Desk Lacks Vital Cultural Variables

Another difficulty in outsourcing help desk support is a lack of cultural diversity, a cultural bridge and global awareness. This can be seen in most outsourcing companies that hire staff in only one country. 

This causes additional problems because if you only hire people from one country, your company can experience some negative aspects of that culture transferring over. And while it’s cost effective to outsource to a country with a lower cost of living, a country with a weaker economy often has a subpar business culture. 

This is why staff from this developing country can transfer several bad habits over to your business. Your company will then have to spend a lot of time training on standards and communication. 

Cultural diversity on the other hand is always a win for an organization. For example, we have 19 different countries represented in our staff. Nonetheless, every staff member has been screened to fit into our globalized international English-speaking culture, which is at our core. 

Cultural diversity means a mix of energies of different people from different places. With all their varying ideas,  this can be beneficial to your business. Moreover, your company should have a cultural bridge to connect all the nationalities. A healthy mix of managers from different countries can also help, as general global awareness contributes to a successful company. 

When Help Desk Outsourcing Companies Focus on Growth at the Expense of Quality

Some outsourcing companies are focused on growth and only growth, which just ends up neglecting other aspects of the business. When sales tactics are the only priority, and a company will sign just any client, quality is often compromised in this situation. When looking to outsource your MSP help desk, you must be very careful in filtering out providers like this. 

An Outsourced Help Desk Lacks a Procedural Structure

Outsourced MSP help desk providers often lack a procedural structure that is in sync with internal structure and management. MSPs usually rely on a shared help desk model or dedicated resources. But in both cases, you need to understand the internal culture of the company and how it’s going to fit with your existing culture.

We help MSPs improve their operations by improving their existing procedural structure. We enjoy consulting MSPs in this regard, as many don’t have a defined, consistent approach, which creates chaos in the help desk

If you’re hiring a shared help desk, make it clear how tickets are getting into the rotation, what the scope of those tickets are and the escalation process for unresolved tickets. This is the same structure you will need your remote staff to follow. 

To outsource the help desk successfully, MSPs must specify the following key points: 

  • the process of receiving tickets
  • the process of ticket’s escalation
  • the process of taking ticket notes 

If you don’t have a structure in place for these processes, then you will lack a defined culture as well–the very thing that attracts premier talent and clients.

Also keep in mind that having someone remotely working in another country will require you to have a much more streamlined and defined workflow. In most cases, MSPs need a dispatcher to assign and escalate tickets. 

Therefore, if you want to grow your MSP, now is the time to get better procedures, and hold all of your staff accountable. After managing this, you might want to take advantage of the cost savings of hiring staff abroad. 

Outsourcing Companies Often Don’t Have a Good System for Documentation 

Another red flag of outsourcing the MSP help desk is when there is a lack of the documentation. We suggest IT Glue to manage documentation in your MSP, especially if you want to succeed in international outsourcing. 

With this tool, you can keep all of your technicians accountable for a standard of ticket notes and time logging on a consistent basis. In addition to this, we recommend a dispatcher who can  look at every ticket on a daily basis and stay on top of the next steps for each ticket. Hence, good documentation starts with ticket notes. 

If an MSP doesn’t have good documentation, it shouldn’t expect success in international outsourcing with employees on another side of the planet.

The Main Hiring Approach for Outsourced Help Desks is Often Limited to Resumes 

The next problem with outsourcing companies is that their hiring approach is based mainly on resumes and certificates. These have proven to be almost useless in projecting who is compatible in the nuanced environment that is the MSP help desk and who is not.  

Why? Because ultimately, the job of the technician is to bridge people together with the technology that is distressing them. A PhD on paper won’t make any difference in reducing that distress. 

The work of MSP staff isn’t only about answering technological questions that some academic person is designed to do. Managers need to test people more so based on the end result they can provide, and the end result can’t always be found in a textbook. This is why we always recommend testing technicians on real-life help desk scenarios.

A trial day can also be a good option to screen candidates before committing to hiring them full time. Management can see what a candidate can actually do, how they think, how they learn new things and how they are approaching situations. 

In the end, candidates must provide results to your company, and at the same time show their intelligence to approach this complicated job of working at an MSP. Candidates should be intelligent and clever when dealing with technology. They must show they can figure out how  VMware works incredibly quickly, as well as showing their quickness on their feet with troubleshooting issues. 

These types of candidates can become even better within two months because they have that intangible ability to figure things out quickly. 

Simply judging candidates by a resume alone is a very outdated and disadvantageous method. And unfortunately, international outsourcing companies still prefer this strategy. Don’t forget to ask any outsourcer you are considering if this is their main mode of hiring. 

Outsourced MSP Help Desk Staff Better Not Fail the Beer Test

The last disadvantage of outsourcing an MSP help desk is that people who get hired by these companies often fail what we like to call ‘The Beer Test.’ What is this, you might ask?

Well, answer these questions: 

  1. Do you want to sit down and have a beer with this staff member? 
  2. Can you have a fulfilling, natural conversation over drinks or coffee with this person talking about life?
  3. Do you have shared values, hobbies and views of the world with this person?

If most of the answers are no, that potential staff member has failed the beer test. You want people who can have natural, culturally compatible conversations with your clients in their moments of stress. That’s why we would only want for our partner MSPs to hire someone who would pass this test.

So as an MSP owner, you should be very selective when hiring your staff members, whether internal or outsourced. In the end, employees are determinative elements of the company’s success. 

How we’re different

We don’t follow most of the other outsourcing companies, but trail-blaze through our own direction. We focus all our resources on creating a stable system that finds and trains culturally-compatible staff from all over the world, that pass the ‘Beer Test’. We don’t make our decisions based on resumes, but instead on intro videos and technical tests. We offer consulting and follow best practices on top-notch documentation keeping. And we aren’t focused on growth, but instead focus on stability and sustainability.

If you want more info about our staffing services, check out our MSP offerings here. We have a passion for creating long-term, stable contracts between dedicated technicians and clients. In fact, we only hire less than 1% of all applicants and test them with real-life IT issues rather than just looking at resumes. So if this aligns with your hiring perspective, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.